Lisbon Essay (22): Vote Yes to this unloved bastard son of the European Convention…

Another European view and another from the Yes perspective comes from Daniel Cohn-Bendit, renegade from 1968 and currently co-president of the European Greens–European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament… No one loves it, he says. Who could? It long, legalistic, and complicated. An ad man’s nightmare. But it is the shaken down product of 8 years of filtering and dispute between all the countries of Europe. It’s not as democratic as he would like, nor as democratic as that convention originally wanted, but it is a step forward in that it strengthens the role of national parliaments in the wider decision making process, and beefs up the power of the European Parliament. Imperfectly formed as it is, voting No is to reject the greater democratisation of the whole…

By Daniel Cohn-Bendit

The Lisbon treaty is certainly no thing of beauty. It is not a work of constitutional prose that will inspire pride in future generations of Europeans. However, anyone who argues that it could or should be is either naive or willfully ignoring the reality of a European Union with 27 member states, in which decisions on institutional reform are made by consensus among these conflicting national interests.

It is hard to passionately promote this treaty, which, in reality, is the unloved bastard son of the European Convention. The Convention brought together stakeholders from across Europe to draw up a blueprint for a more democratic, transparent and efficient EU. That the outcome of this process, which began 8 years ago, should be the complicated and unloveable treaty that was signed in Lisbon is unfortunate but also inevitable.

That is not to say that the Lisbon treaty represents a failed attempt to make the EU more democratic, transparent and efficient. While the treaty certainly does not go as far in these areas as most of those involved in the Convention wanted, it clearly represents a step forward.

It strengthens the role of national parliaments in the EU decision-making process. It increases the powers of the directly-elected European Parliament. It gives EU citizens a more direct route for influencing EU policy. It adapts the decision-making process to the reality of an enlarged EU and reforms the EU institutions to enable them to better operate in a changed international environment, with the expectations this brings for the EU.

There is no doubt that it could and should have gone further in all these areas but the Lisbon treaty would clearly represent an improvement on the status quo.

There is a myth being perpetuated that if the Lisbon treaty fails it would create the possibility for a new and better treaty. The reality is that there is no ‘better deal’. The argument that by rejecting the Lisbon treaty we will get something better simply does not stand up to any objective analysis.

The European Union now consists of 27 member states, which not only have their own national interests but also myriads of sub-national interests, covering a population of almost 500 million. A treaty to reform the EU must balance all these interests and try to accommodate them. Clearly, nobody will ever be fully accommodated but a consensual democratic decision-making system, like in the EU, must try to find a solution that is broadly acceptable.

That is what the Lisbon treaty is. It is hideous in its complexity; it is a compromise for all involved; but, after 8 years of deliberation, it is the only deal in town to try and improve the way the European Union works.

Those of us who are unhappy that it does not go further to make the European Union more democratic or transparent are naturally frustrated. However, we must also recognise that it does include improvements that will make the EU more democratic and transparent.

To reject the treaty outright is to reject these improvements: throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. That would be a mistake for Europe and a mistake for Ireland.

You can view the full set of essays here:

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  • Scaramoosh

    I am pretty sure that Cohn-Bendit’s former (?)heroes Bakunin and Durrutti will be turning in their grave.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s the very least of Ireland’s problems though Scaramoosh… Is he wrong? If so, how? And if not, why does it matter?

  • Dave

    If the value of the Lisbon Treaty to be judged by the quantity of sovereign powers that it returns to national parliaments from the EU, then it follows that rejecting the Lisbon Treaty and scraping the EU would return all of the sovereign power to national parliaments and would therefore best achieve the desired outcome. The argument is basically “It sucks, but we’re too incompetent and too divided to come up with anything better so take this shut up about it, okay?”

    The treaty, of course, is not about reforming a failed organisation but about transforming a failed organisation into a federal state.

    Daniel Cohn-Bendit is a good reason why nations should not allow their internal affairs to be determined by people that they do not elect. In fact, this gentleman would be totally unelectable in either Ireland or our nearest neighbour the United Kingdom, yet here he is telling us why we should allow our internal affairs to be determined by people like him.

    Daniel Cohn-Bendit wanted to legalise sex with children. He also ran a kindergarten for children, and wrote in 1975 book Le Grand Bazar about sexually molesting children (aged 5 to 8) in his care:

    “On several occasions certain kids would open my fly and start to stroke me. I reacted differently according to circumstances, but their desire posed a problem for me. I asked them: ‘Why don’t you play together? Why have you chosen me, and not the other kids?’ But if they insisted, I caressed them still.”

    In 2001, the former German Foreign Minister, Klaus Kinkel, demanded that Daniel Cohn-Bendit “clarify whether there was actual physical contact with the children” but be he has refused to give a straight answer to either Klaus Kinkel or Declan Ganley about it.

    Do we really want people that we would never elect to determine our affairs?

  • Mick Fealty


    “…it follows that rejecting the Lisbon Treaty and scraping the EU would return all of the sovereign power to national parliaments and would therefore best achieve the desired outcome.”

    It might follow after a long cascade of a particular series of events Dave, but there is nothing inevitable about that happen, nor about where that (or many other) permutations) would take Ireland…

  • Dave

    I accept that most Irish people support Ireland’s membership of the EU and they would not want it to happen. I think they are misguided to abdicate their responsibility to progress their national interests is so many areas of national policy, but this is really a lost cause here since they are going to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Assuming Czech President Vaclav Klaus isn’t successful in his endeavours, the EU will limp on for another 15 or 20 years until it collapses into economic ruin or leads its Member States into some disastrous conflict.

    Contrary to Daniel Cohn-Bendit’s spin above, the Lisbon Treaty is an abject rejection of the Laeken Declaration’s desire to bring the EU closer to the people. EU federalists had no intention of affirming the sovereignty of nation-states since they must subvert the concept of the nation-state and the practice of democracy in order to progress their “ever-closer union” integrationist agenda.

    This treaty centralises power in the EU rather than transfers it back to the Member States. It gives the EU more power, not less. It also makes Member States into subordinate regions of an EU federal state wherein the European Commission becomes the de facto government of Europe. It also makes Irish people into EU citizens first and foremost, relegating their national citizenship to second-class status in their own country.

    The treaty in no way reasserts the principle of national self-determination. On the contrary, it declares it void. Yet there is no European demos, so there can be no European democracy. The ‘nationality’ of European is legally-engineered (and ranks higher than Irish nationality under this treaty) but it is actually non-existent outside of EU law, and will forever remain so bar a few giddy simpletons who have been successfully indoctrinated with this identity (due to the EU multi-billion propaganda budget).

  • Scaramoosh


    I have not read “Lisbon” and therefore do not feel entitled to put forward a view as to its efficacy vis a vis the Irish case. Moreover, I am more than sure, that most of those that will be voting Yes or No have not read it either, and that the Irish are effectively sleep walking towards a Yes vote.

    Nonetheless, a document that manages to unite both the Anarchists and the Tories, is worthy of interest; – Anarchist view – Tory View

  • Green Boobs

    Dave, why all the straw men? This is a reasoned essay. It is not an impassioned plea for a yes, based on spurious arguments.

    Cohn-Bendit has been elected as an MEP four times (twice in France and twice in Germany), so he is hardly an unelected elite. He may be unelectable in Ireland but I wouldn’t take that as an insult. Look at our shower in the Dail: they would be unelectable anywhere else in Europe. I don’t want them ‘determining my affairs’ but they do.

    Cohn-Bendit is a sensationalist. His life is based on sensationalism. Bringing up that unfounded, straw man of a canard about paedophelia has nothing to do with this essay.

    This essay seems to me to be as close as you will get to an honest reflection on Lisbon, its merits and the reality of voting yes or no.